|The Globe Arena, where the Blues will open the 2009-10 season against the Detroit Red Wings on Friday. (Photo by Chris Kerber). |
STOCKHOLM -- With the jet lag hopefully behind them, the St. Louis Blues hit the ice Monday afternoon at the Hovet Arena, which is attached to the Ericsson Globe, roughly 19 hours after their charter flight touched down in Stockholm.
The skate was spirited and tough as the Blues worked the cobwebs out of their legs on the larger ice surface at Hovet, the home rink for Djurgardens of the Swedish Elite League. The North American-sized ice at the Globe won't be ready until Tuesday.
"You know what, I like the American-sized rinks much better," Blues Swedish center Patrik Berglund
told NHL.com. "That rink is not as much fun."
The Blues, who played Saturday night in Dallas, had a meeting Sunday night at their hotel where coach Andy Murray told them to "enjoy the culture and enjoy our time here because it's definitely a once in a lifetime experience," goalie Chris Mason told NHL.com.
But a quick scan of the locker room after Monday's practice told the true story of how the Blues are feeling with the start of the regular season looming just days away.
The Blues are here for business. They are here to take four points from the Detroit Red Wings in the 2009 Compuware NHL Premiere-Stockholm. They are here to get a jump in what will surely be a tight race in the Central Division.
Anything short of that and this trip could be labeled a disappointment even though it will likely be, as Mason said, a once in a lifetime experience.
"We have a lot of focus because we know why we're here," Berglund said. "We want to go home with four points. That is why we're here. Everybody is focused and trying to have fun as much as possible when you can. That makes you more relaxed, but we have a great team and everybody knows what to do and why we're here."
First, though, the Blues will be put to the test in Linkoping on Tuesday night when they face the local Swedish Elite League team at Cloetta Center, an arena built in 2004. Linkopings HC is one of the best teams in the SEL and already is two weeks into its regular-season schedule, and used to the bigger ice surface.
The Blues will conduct a morning skate at the Globe before taking a two and a half hour train ride to Linkoping. They'll head back to Stockholm after the game and should be back in their hotel beds shortly after midnight local time.
"That will be interesting," Mason said. "We can't take this game lightly. We have to keep good habits. It's going to be very interesting playing on the big ice and playing an opponent we really don't know too much about. I just hope we prepare and play the way we're supposed to play and we don't take it lightly."
Berglund, who has played in Cloetta Center only once, said the Blues have to play physical because that is a required ingredient to beating Detroit.
"We have to adjust fast and play our game, but we are going to come out and play tough hockey to show them that it's going to be a hard game," Berglund said. "We need to be ready and we need to feel good before we go into the games against Detroit. That's why we need to play physical and make a statement by playing good hockey."
The forward lines and defensive pairings Murray uses Tuesday night should give an indication as to how he plans to deploy his lineup Friday night. The Blues have 26 players here, though D.J. King (thumb) is expected to go on injured reserve and one of their eight defensemen still has to be cut.
The Blues signed veteran defenseman Darryl Sydor on Friday and appear prepared to keep rookie Alex Pietrangelo
for now. Pietrangelo still has junior eligibility, so he can play nine NHL games before the clock starts ticking on his entry level contract.
"This practice definitely helped out quite a bit and (Tuesday's) pregame skate will help out as well," Blues center T.J. Oshie
told NHL.com. "If anything, though, the spirits are high. We're on the road together in a different country so we have to stick together even more and I definitely think that's bringing us even closer together."